A few more things...

I must admit, I'm a sucker for upgrading and fiddling, this is the second post about accessories or parts that will make the Raleigh Superbe just so...   The thing that bugged me about it was that it was a '79 model, thus it had the late style shifter, lights and a mattress saddle rather than a sprung leather Brooks saddle.  I'm normally not so keen on making newer things look older than they are, however the design of the Superbe is so timeless I decided I would change a few things.

The first thing was the shifter, the unit I got from eBay appeared to be a '50s unit according to this document.  I had a 60's 3 speed shifter on my old 3-speed back in Sydney and that was mechanically the same as other units.  I didn't know that the early units are subtly different, it has a cable entry hole which is a slightly smaller diameter than the late style ferrule I had.  The later shifters have a slightly larger diameter and a slot which you slide it up which locks it in place.  Thus to get the older shifter to work I had to drill it out a smidge, about another 1mm or so for it to work.  The other thing I did notice was that the late shifter had a hard limit on the high and low gears whereas the early shifter allowed you to push it past both the high and low index points (the low limit is limited by the cable adjustment).   

New style shifter above, you can see the slot style compared
to the plain hole in the older style unit.
The ferrule won't fit

 Because of this I found the late style shifter occasionally wouldn't give the cable enough slack when shifting into high gear and it would slip a little, probably due to a bit of friction in the cable run and not completely letting off the pedals when shifting.  The old style shifter however gave the cable more slack which gives it more tolerance and lets it engage into high gear properly.  So far I haven't had any problems with slipping in high gear.  The other slight differences I noticed was that the older style shifter was just built to a much nicer standard.  The top plate is brass compared to plastic (the 60's shifter I had before had a thin steel cover plate), the tolerances were a lot tighter and there was a lot less play in the mechanism as a result.  It also looks quite a lot more pretty.  I have read and I feel that around the 50's and 60's Sturmey Archer's standards started to drop; however, most of the hubs I've played with were 70's era and were quite bulletproof as long as they were adjusted properly and weren't abused.

Older style shifter above; you can see how much
tighter the tolerances are compared to the new style below.
However the newer style has a plastic cover
which prevents dirt ingress

Installed, and it looks tops!

The other big thing was the saddle, my old 3-speed had a brand new Brooks B67 which was sprung a bit too stiffly for my somewhat meagre but statistically normal 68kg body weight; I found the B67 barely took the edge off bumps.  I had read that Brooks increased the diameter of the springs for the new models as larger people were reporting breaking springs.  This was part of the reason I went for an old one as they are supposedly more pliable, the other reason was I wanted something old that would match the rest of the bike and not attract too much attention.

To this end I found a B73 on eBay, reasonably well worn but in very good useable condition.  There were no rips or tears, the leather is quite supple and well worn in if a touch dry.  I put a bid on it and won it; about an hour after I paid for it, I was googling and found some comments that it felt laterally wobbly compared to their other saddles due to the vertical spring on the nose of the saddle, I felt a bit of buyer's remorse I must say.  When trying to impress people by riding no-hands I typically steer the bike with my thighs on the nose of the saddle and I was a little worried it would affect this (obviously very important), however it after installing the saddle and riding it around for a bit I found I could still ride it hands free.  The springs were a lot more softly sprung like I thought it would be and actually absorbed bumps in the road, perfect!  I also love the look the the triple springs, so much more old school than the mattress saddle it replaced.

Well thus far I think this is all the upgrading I'll do for now... I'm quite tempted to upgrade the wheels to alloy rims and drum brakes, particularly for winter when it'll most likely be snowy.  I've only really tried the rod brakes once after a bit of rain and it was a bit hairy to say the least.   Anyway I'll have to see how it goes.  Thanks for reading.


  1. Good find! I hope to find something similar one of these days--when I have the cash. (There have been a couple DL-1 sightings on Portland Craigslist as of late, but I haven't had the money for them.) And if I did decide I wanted one to be used as my daily transportation, I'd probably upgrade to drum brakes as well. I have a Raleigh Wayfarer that I use as a daily bike but I had the front wheel rebuilt on an alloy rim with a dynamo hub so I had stopping power--and lighting.
    Like the look of the B73 on it as well.

  2. Hey there, Yeah I was out on the watch for a little bit. It seems not many of the full chaincase versions made it out of the motherland to the colonies. Most of the old Raleighs I've seen just have the hockey stick chainguards. They are also pretty thin on the ground in Australia, particularly anything pre 1960's.

  3. Here in the US it's the same thing: you can find the "hockey stick" chainguard or no chainguard easily, full chaincase is very rare. According to Sheldon Brown: "Most roadsters that were imported to the U.S. do not have the gear case, because U.S. customs regulations placed a higher duty on bicycles weighing more than 40 lbs."

    What are you going to do with the "old", er, original trigger shifter?

  4. Yeah I love the full chaincase, bring on the snow and rain! I just rode my randonneur through the park in grimy conditions and just had to clean the chain, it was covered in gunk and grit, you can easily see the usefulness of an enclosed drivetrain.

    As for the shfiter, I'll probably just keep it as a spare, or maybe eBay it sometime, although it's not going to be worth much.

  5. Hey, if you ever feel like trading for something, I wouldn't mind a good S-A trigger shifter. They aren't as easy to find over on this side of the pond.

  6. I had the plastic trigger shifter on my DL-1, but the mechanism was slightly damaged allowing it to slip from first to second gear unless held down. In the end I decided to sod authenticity and buy one of the shiny new-model shifter. I think its classic aesthetic actually suits the bike quite well. Those older style shifters from before the plastic era are rather nice looking too.

  7. The one you have is very nice, I love how all the new Sunrace-Sturmey stuff is very modular. I'm pretty sure the one you have can be swapped onto a downtube braze on or a bar-end.